Injuries to Small brothers puts Ballymun title dreams in peril
Both John and Paddy Small are in serious danger of missing Ballymun's Kickhams' Dublin SFC clash with St Vincent's on October Bank Holiday Monday.
The brothers were injured during Ballymun's impressive eight-point semi-final victory over Kilmacud Crokes on Saturday evening and Kickhams manager Paddy Carr has admitted that the club have "very, very serious concerns about both".
Paddy Small, Ballymun's in-form inside forward in their accomplished run to this year's decider, suffered a hamstring injury during added time in the second half of that game while earlier, Dublin centre-back John sustained damage to what Carr called his "upper ankle".
While stressing that it was "too early yet to say for certain" whether either will consequently miss the final, scheduled to be screened live from Parnell Park by Eir Sport, Carr added: "It's a race against time and one that I'm not sure we're going to win."
Paddy has scored 1-11 from play in Ballymun's last two games and as a result, is being tipped for a run with the Dublin seniors in next year's League.
Already this year, he missed all but a couple of minutes of Dublin's victorious All-Ireland Under-21 campaign with a hamstring injury.
"Paddy hit a really hot streak at the moment and he's a great young lad," Carr stated. "That's all down to discipline and hard work on his part.
"It would certainly be a fairly significant loss to us if both or either are ruled out."
Ted Furman, an obvious attacking replacement for the younger Small sibling, is also out of the match as he inches closer to fitness from a shoulder problem.
"He's another man that the final has probably come a little bit quick," Carr confirmed.
"Parnell Park in the Dublin Championship at this time of year, you have to be at one hundred per cent."
Ballymun have, however, benefited from the relative freshness of their sizeable Dublin contingent in comparison to recent years.
Jim Gavin's decision to take a team holiday in January combined with the fact than unlike last season, the All-Ireland final did not go to a replay has seen a more prominent influence on the club competition from many of the Dublin players.
"There's no doubt about it," Carr, who had five players on this year's All-Ireland winning Dublin panel, agreed.
"James McCarthy came back to us last year and he had yards of strapping all over his body. Whereas he's in much better physical shape now. There's no doubt about that.
"Cian O'Sullivan would have missed two or three years worth of Championship matches for Kilmacud, so that's reflective of the kind of physical expenditure that there is at inter-county level.
"The truth of the matter is, since I've become involved with the club, we've literally only had a handful of times when we've had the team out (as a whole).
"So the truth is, we really don't know how good we can be. And that is the challenge we're facing.
"You have a third of your team that the other two thirds are trying to get used to as well. It's about finding rhythms and understanding."
St Vincent's, Ballymun's opponents on October 30, beat Ballymun by a point in last year's semi-final after Kickhams lost Jason Whelan to a first-half red card and Davy Byrne to a black.
"We certainly went about looking at ourselves very, very honestly after that" Carr explained.
"Every team has lessons to learn and I always believe that failure is the fuel of future success.
"And that's something we have looked at very, very closely individually and collectively."
Of Vincent's, Carr added: "I've nothing other than huge admiration for the culture that they have in the club.
"Their recent achievements have been remarkable because they have shown the things most teams crave and that is utter consistency.
"Their key men, once they get that blue and white jersey on them, they absolutely maximise what they have. And it's a great credit to them.
"In lots of respects, it's the final that a lot of people would have predicted.
"In a final, you've really got to produce it. St Vincent's are the best and there's no other team you'd like to prove yourself against."